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Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children.

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Irish Elk
Monday, February 23, 2004  

St. Ann's

Today's New York Sun reports on the possible closure of St. Ann's Armenian Catholic Cathedral, in the East Village, where a final Latin Mass was said this past weekend.

Steve MacDonald was there, and sends this dispatch:

On Saturday, February 21st, at a Mass at St. Ann's Church on East 12th Street in Manhattan, Fr. William Elder's homily included remarks that, out of context, might appear to be Big Apple boosterism. Fr. Elder quoted Pope John Paul II as telling the late John Cardinal O'Connor that he was "the Archbishop of the capital of the world." Fr. Elder then noted that, at least in secular terms, New York was the New Rome. But Fr. Elder had begun his homily by reminding the 300 or so at the Traditional Latin Mass at St. Ann's Church that the Mass he was offering appeared to be the end of the Latin Mass at St. Ann's, and just about the end of St. Ann's itself. Fr. Elder confirmed that in about a week the New York Archdiocese plans to close the Church, and it plans to sell the abandoned real estate as soon as it can find a buyer. The closure and sale have been attributed to financial pressures, although the Rector of St. Patrick's Cathedral, Msgr. Eugene Clark, has publicly questioned the need for any churches to close.

Fr. Elder took the occasion of his homily at St. Ann's last Latin Mass to review the history of the church. Rebuilt in 1870, it incorporated stained glass windows from the Baptist church and Jewish temple that had previously been on the site. Governor and presidential candidate Al Smith had been to Mass there frequently. In 1929, Pope Pius XI declared the Church the American National Shrine of St. Ann. In 1983 St. Ann's became the cathedral for the Armenian Catholic Exarchate of North America. And in 1988, the Archdiocese of New York allowed the Traditional Latin Mass to be said there. Never on Sunday, and only on a side altar -- Fr. Elder described these as the "strings" attached to the original indult. Thus began the restoration to St Ann's of the Mass as it had been offered from 1871 to 1965. After a while, the high altar (which had evaded post Vatican II "wreckavation") became a tolerable location for the ancient rite. Gradually over the past 10 years the Ecuadorian community has also found a home in St Ann's, and, in addition to a complete restoration of the beautiful interior of the church undertaken by the Ecuadorians, a large, enshrined statue of Our Lady of Quinche was installed. The planned destruction of St. Ann's was, to Fr. Elder, representative of the crisis of the Catholic Church in New York, in the United States, and in the world. He concluded with a call for conversion of the hearts of all those around us. "Let us begin here and now to rebuild the Catholic Church in New York." Then 300 of us heard, seemingly one last time 133 years after the first St. Ann's congregation heard it in the same sacred setting,
Ite, missa est.

The archdiocese has apparently not enjoyed the pleas of the affected communities, nor did the prospect of the local ABC TV station filming the last Latin Mass for its Saturday evening news program sit well with the Archdiocese. So, at the Saturday 5:30 PM Mass in English, it was announced that the full closure was being postponed "indefinitely." However, the Armenians have already been forced to relocate to Brooklyn, the Ecuadorians have been moved out and will no longer have a Mass in Spanish available, and the Traditional Latin Mass community has been forced to find itself a new home by moving 80 blocks North to Our Lady of Good Counsel on East 90th Street. Presumably the archdiocese, with its padlocks in reserve, can boil this particular frog a bit more slowly. With the communities that made St. Ann's a thriving place now scattered, the chancery should be able to point in a few months to decreased Mass attendance at St. Ann's and should then be in a position to use that as a reason to close this gem of a church forever. Efforts to save the St. Ann's Church will be continuing. Information is available at www.SaveStAnns.com.

Roving monarchist Theodore Harvey offers an account and photos of a visit two years ago to St. Ann's for a commemorative Mass for guillotined French King Louis XVI:

As I entered the sanctuary I felt that I'd left the modern world behind entirely and stepped back into the Middle Ages. This service was so different from mainstream modern Catholic services that it's hard to believe they are technically part of the same Church. I think even the most ardent secularist might have had a more positive view of Catholicism after experiencing this service. This was the real thing. The music--a wonderful soprano accompanied by soft pipe organ--was so beautiful, traditional yet timeless. And they honor the great Catholic composers--the Pie Jesu from the Faure Requiem was a centerpiece of the service. Everything was in Latin (in hushed tones), except for one song in French and the concluding reading in English of the last will and testament of King Louis XVI. The bulletin contained some interesting historical background material, including (much to my satisfaction) a note on Ireland apparently intended to distance the Church from the "Catholic" IRA. The priest faced the altar, not the congregation; no Vatican II for him.

The NYC chapter of the American Guild of Organists also maintains a page on the church.

UPDATE: Matthew at the Holy Whapping weighs in with his own monarchic tales, and a remarkable coincidence.

And here's an article I did a few years back on the Society of King Charles the Martyr at Boston's Anglo-Catholic Church of the Advent.


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